Health minister Alain Berset has ended a three-day visit to the Central African Republic, saying Switzerland can offer expertise in several areas to the conflict-ridden country.
Berset is the first Swiss minister to visit the Central African Republic, which has been wracked by violence and is one of the poorest countries in the world.
“We have expertise in conflict resolution, dealing with the past, the rule of law and justice,” Berset told Swiss broadcaster RTS. “These are all areas that need to be built or rebuilt in the Central African Republic.”
On Tuesday he met in the capital Bangui with the country’s president, Faustin Touadéra. Their discussions focused on a peace accord recently signed by the government and armed groups, and on humanitarian aid. Berset also met with the country’s prime minister and health minister.
A peace accord signed on February 5 between the government and 14 armed groups aims to bring an end to violence that has wracked the country since 2012. Armed groups still hold a large part of the country, and efforts to bring accountability for the past have been slow. There are some 640,000 displaced people in the country, according to the UNHCR.
During his visit, Berset visited hospitals in Bangui and also in Kaga-Bandoro north of the capital. “I wanted to go and see what is happening on the ground,” he told RTS. “I managed to go to one of the most problematic regions because there are various armed groups fighting for control of the territory. You feel very quickly the pressure on public services. Medical staff are under threat on a daily basis and hospitals are subject to looting.”
The country has only 40 doctors per million inhabitants. Switzerland has pledged to help support access to medical care and protection of health workers.
In 2019, Swiss aid to the Central African Republic is budgeted at CHF11.6 million ($11.6 million), up 1.7 million on last year.